In the theater, where romanticism had finally destroyed, at least in practice, the prejudice of a separation of the comic from the tragic genre, the historical drama, without completely disappearing, yielded to the drama of psychology or modern custom and towards the drama of psychology and manners bent comedy. After the feeble continuers that Goldoni had had in the first half of the nineteenth century, Venice gave to the theater, heirs of his spirit, but interpreters of a more serious (if not deeper) vision of Francesco Augusto Bon’s life. Riccardo Selvatico and Giacinto Gallina. The Bersezio, from Piedmont, and Alfredo Testoni, from Bologna, respectively created in their dialects a theater that from Goldoni draws the intent of representing reality without spoiling it, and on the comic laughter spreads a light and no less realistic veil of melancholy. Husbands. In Tuscany Vincenzo and Ferdinando Martini and Tommaso Gherardi del Testa, in agile and clear comedies and in witty “proverbîs” bleed the tradition of the great eighteenth-century playwright with a broader spirit of observation. Copious and hasty author of comedies, dramas, tragedies, the Ligurian Paolo Giacometti rarely approached Goldoni, rather a lover, as he was, of romantic historical evocations and complex situations of effect with a social background. Goldonian in his debut and historicizing, Paolo Ferrari passed, also through the action of the French theater, to the thesis drama, spoiled, as is natural, by declamatory abstractions, but never completely deprived of what are the best qualities of the Ferrari: the constructive ability, the inventing imagination of guessed situations, a certain representative skill of the characters.
Of the new literary currents that came from beyond the Alps (free theater, theater of ideas; Becque, Hervieu, De Curel, Ibsen, Sudermann, Hauptmann) the Italian playwrights, who held the billboards in the twenty years to knight of the two centuries: Giuseppe Giacosa, who passed from sentimental idyll to a realistic representation of history and to psychological, social and costume drama, an artist of no great originality, but clear, balanced, full of grace; Girolamo Rovetta, not vulgar novelist and lucky author in his last period of historical-patriotic dramas, perhaps artistically inferior to his previous comedies of bitter bourgeois realism; Marco Praga, who in his best plays created figures of beautiful psychological truth despite the strangeness of the situations; Enrico Annibale Butti, convinced Ibsenian, but with remarkable originality of ideas, in forms of art that are not deep, but well constructed and correct; Robeno Bracco, a follower of realism in some plays, but in the most and the best of his work interpreter of an energetic psychologism, dominated by a rather sad conception of life and a lively sense of humanity; Giannino Antona Traversi, Sabatino Lopez, Lucio D’Ambra, Dario Niccodemi, etc.
The great initiator of the so-called theater of poetry, which resumed the old historical or mythical drama with changed spirits and forms and with the ambition of philological reconstruction, was Gabriele D’Annunzio, who wanted to give dramatic form to the moral world expressed in the novels in a series of tragedies of lust and violence, which, often magnificent in descriptive art, rarely succeed in representing living and true humanity. An essentially lyrical temperament, D’Annunzio makes his characters symbols of his conception of life, so that they lack an autonomous artistic consistency. His romantic vagueness of the primitive and of the barbarian in history and costume inspired him what are the masterpieces of his theater, the Francesca da Rimini and The daughter of Iorio, where the fervor of sensual passion and the rough life of the Middle Ages and the Abruzzese mountaineers leap into new and vigorous forms of art.